Car Audio

LIS Audio How-To: Custom Speaker Pods

Introduction

In order to get the amount of output we desire or a specific look we want from our doors speakers we are sometimes forced to turn to building custom door panel  speakers pods. Some applications won’t allow for the amount of speakers we desire to add to the front stage so we must create a solution for this problem. Building a great set of custom door speakers pods can also set your project apart from the crowd and help you score better with the show judges if done properly! Read up to see how I use these simple techniques to accomplish the goals at hand!

20180112_175358_20180617095342016

This LIS Audio Blog will cover one of the many different techniques that I use to build custom speaker pods that will form fit to the existing door panel. This procedure will require some modification to the factory door panels, possibly the door itself and will be built completely from scratch. We will cover in detail what steps are to be taken to complete these tasks.

20180207_154807.jpgBrennan’s #ProjectZ33 at the shop showing off its new door pods.

These specific custom door panels will be built in a 2004 Nissan 350Z, which are meant to be on the “flashy” side and for more of a show quality build. In this instance we’ll be adding two pairs of Audio Dynamics 6.5” 2100 component speakers. This includes a total of four 6.5” mid drivers, four 1” tweeters and four passive crossovers that we will fit in two doors. By the end of this article you will gain a basic level of understanding what goes into building show quality simple speaker pods.

20170113_124427.jpgAudio Dynamics 2100 Series Component speakers posing with some Hushmat sound deadener product.

What’s needed…

We will start off by listing the ideal materials and tools needed to complete this job. Please review our LIS Audio safety tips for operating power tools and for basic shop safety information. You can obtain this information for free just by contacting LIS Audio directly and asking for a digital copy, or hard copy. Not all tools and materials are mandatory; other alternatives can be used to achieve the same goals, which comes with fabrication experience. The amount of materials used will vary from project to project so I will list the general amount I used in this part of the #ProjectZ33 build. Lets move to what we will be working with…

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Materials

  • Nitrile Gloves, 1 box
  • Body Fill Spats, 12-24
  • Body Filler, 7lb
  • Hot Glue Sticks, 1 pack
  • Painters Tape, 2 rolls
  • ½” MDF Wood, 1 sheet
  • Primer Paint
  • Fiberglass Mat, 1 sheet
  • Fiberglass Resin, 1qt
  • Sand Paper; 60, 120, 320 grit
  • Gorilla Tape
  • Back Strap or Angle Brackets
  • Self Tapping Screws, ½”, 3/4”
  • Wood Screws, ½”, 1”
  • Speaker Wire
  • 2” Wood Paint Brushes, 12-24
  • Contact Cement, 36oz
  • Black Suede, 2 yards
  • Red Suede, 2 yards
  • Cardboard, 36”X12”
  • Staples, 3/8”
  • LED Strip Lights, 3 meter
  • Sand Paper Disks, 60, 120

Tools

  • Sharpie Marker
  • Safety Glasses
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Air Saw
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit Set
  • Circular Saw or Table Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Dust Mask
  • Hard Sand Block
  • Air Chuck
  • Soft Sanding Block
  • Measuring Tape or Ruler
  • Air Compressor
  • Staple Gun
  • Zip Ties
  • Ring Zip Ties
  • Air Palm Sander
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Router or Router Table
  • Adhesive Sprayer
  • 6 Pack of Cold Beer

The Process

20171003_191923.jpgHow the door panel started. Factory gray plastic panels that fit one 1″ tweeter and a 6.5″ speaker.

We will start this process with a few rough sketches, then a final rendering. When we’re drawing the door pod take into account the natural flow of the vehicle and the flow of the door panel itself. If possible, create a pod that almost matches the style of the vehicle, while heading toward the style the vehicle will have when finished. You will see that drawing the door panel shapes a few times on paper will help when creating the templates later from cardboard.

20171207_00002_002.jpgA hand drawn rendering of the direction we want to take the design

Draw and mock up some basic shapes with cardboard to get a general idea for the flow we might want, this may take a few tries. The cardboard design can also be taped to the door in the estimated position to get a good idea of clearance for when the door opens and closes. For this process keep a clipboard, a pen/pencil and some paper handy for some rough sketching. Drawing and redrawing the idea before moving into fabrication is always a good idea.

20180110_104242.jpgThe cardboard cutout that we will us to get the shape for our template that will later be used to build our pods.

Evaluate the car door along with the panel to make sure no moving parts or wires will be in the way of the mounting points of the new speaker door pod. Planning for mounting and assembly is key when installing the pod in the final stages. Pay attention to where the door panel lines up when the door is closed, be sure to keep the pod from colliding with the dash. Also, check the depth between the panels and seat while the door is closed to confirm the seat levers or buttons can still be reached comfortably. Make sure the pod does not seem too bulky as to intrude into the driver or passenger sitting area. Proceded to remove both door panels at this point.

20180110_104629_HDR.jpgThe cardboard cutout on the door panel to make sure the flow and fit will work nicely.

In the next step we will begin to create the baffle for the speaker pod that will attach to the door itself and hold the speaker components. We will need to be sure to check clearance of the speaker’s depth and of any other components that will be mounted in this part of the pod. We will also add Hushmat sound deadener to the inner and outer door skins, so plan for mounting bracket surfaces before covering the metal with deadener. Read the blog Benefits of Auto Sound Deadener to learn the advantages of adding deadener to the vehicle (www.lisaudioblog.com/sound-deadener).

20171019_181114-1This is the full Hushmat door kit that covers the inner and outer door skins of the 350Z with one set of Audio Dynamics 2100 Series speakers.

Prep & Design…

Now we will disassemble the door panels separating the multiple parts to prepare for modifications to the panels. Make sure to place screws, bolts, screw covers and fasteners into plastic sandwich bags, a magnetic tray or a plastic storage container. Place the door panels clear of walk areas and avoid laying them face down on rough surfaces. Continue by taping off any surfaces that may easily be scratched while working. This is also in preparation for cutting a hole where our speaker pod may later come through the panel and where the accent door panel pod will mount.

20180110_102949_HDR.jpgDoor panel taped off in preparation of fabrication.

This is where we will design and build the pod that will attach to the car door and hold the speakers into place, essentially acting as an enclosure. Begin by taping the entire surface area of the doors inner metal skin with plenty of coverage to avoid getting anything around it in body filler. The most important thing to pay attention to is clearance of the speaker’s magnet and basket, from the anticipated enclosure mounting area, to the door. As well as clearance of how the panel will fit back over the speaker pod, and upon closing and opening the door.

pixlr_20180618050834831.jpgThe baffle test fit to the door and checking clearance.

We won’t have to modify the door metal with this build in order to fit the components with plenty of clearance. In some cases this is necessary. If you plan to modify the inner door skin to fit the pod then be sure to look for mount points for the door panel and window mechanisms to make sure the cut away area wont effect them. Create stilts out of thin pieces of MDF or available wood to “hover” the baffle over the mounting area. In the next process we will use the stilts to hot glue the baffle to our taped areas. This will allow us to close the door and fit the panel before making any permanent moves.

20180110_134810.jpgOur template shape drawn onto the door panel before cutting.

Line up the door panel to estimate where the baffle of the speaker pod may pop through. Tape this area off, beyond the estimated surfaces, in preparation of sharpie marks and cut lines. We’re really just shooting for a rough guess but to try to be as precise in this process as possible. We have a bit of room to work with but not a lot. Proceed to detach any pieces of the door panel that aren’t relevant to the fit of the pod or alignment of the door panel. Drill holes in the tight corners of the shape and begin to cut or “modify” the panel to create a hole similar, yet slightly larger, to the pattern traced on the tape.

20180111_114047The door panel after being modified to fit over the speaker pod.

Constructing the Speaker Pods…

Install the freshly cut door panel onto the door over the hovering baffle to see how close  of a fit it is and to observe how easily the panel me come off after installing the dress pod onto the door panel itself (we’ll get into the door panel dress pod a bit later in the blog). Pull the stilts up from the taped surface and shift the baffle into the right place if needed, then glue them back down. Mark on the baffle the predetermined spots of where the brackets will mount the pod to the door. Be sure to add thicker stilts (preferably half inch thick) to these spots when filling in the stilts. Once the pods appear to be symmetrical and straight, we will move onto fabricating the exterior of the pod.

pixlr_20180617120258850The speaker pod baffle test fit. Use plenty of tape to cover the door when working.
20180111_134213.jpgThe baffle temporarily mounted with a bit of hot glue and a few stilts. It is still able to be adjusted.

After getting the baffle to its ideal position add more stilts to fill the open areas between the baffle and the taped inner door skin, we will add body filler to give the pod a smoother shape. Most of the structural integrity will come from the body filler/fiberglass added later. Make sure to be careful while test fitting and working with the hovering baffle since it will be super flimsy a this point. The additional stilts will help prevent the body filler from falling through the cracks into the pod and help us determine a general shape of the pod walls.

pixlr_20180617134219021The baffle of the speaker pod with the additional stilts added prior to body filler.

Once the body filler is added we will begin a process of knocking down and filling. Find any high ridges or build ups that don’t allow for a smooth surface and sand them down. We call this knocking it down. Start with low grit sandpaper (60-80) for a fast sanding process. After most of the surface area is closer to smooth, switch to a higher grit sandpaper (100-320) to finish the process. Take a look at the pits and waves that may need to be filled to smooth the surfaces out even further. Fill these spots and then repeat this process until the pod surface appears to be super smooth.

20180112_123450.jpgThe first layer of body filler on the speaker pods while they’re on the door.

This could take more than 3 layers of filling and knocking down. We must be sure to test fit it with the door panel as the layers are built. I personally, like to paint the pod with a primer to prepare the top surface for wrapping, but it is not entirely necessary. One reason for this is it becomes easier to see any imperfections left on the surface area, and it allows the wrap to be removed without ruining the body fill top surface. We will be wrapping these in suede to match the rest of the interior that has already been converted.

pixlr_20180617171140533.jpgLayer one and layer two of the body filler on the speaker pods.

Making it pretty…

Add metal 90-degree angle brackets to the speaker pod to mount the structure to the door upon installation. We can use half inch screws to mount the brackets from the inside, again making sure we are utilizing the thicker stilts to attach the brackets to the speaker pod. Add a layer or two of fiberglass and fiberglass resin to permanently attach the brackets to the pod. This will make the brackets a part of the pod and also help add more structural integrity. Paint the pod inside and out. Allow it plenty of time to dry (2-24hrs). The longer the paint is allowed to dry the better, overnight works best.

pixlr_20180617171945942Adding the metal brackets and fiberglass layers to the interior of the speaker pods where the thicker stilts are located.

At this point we will use our template we created for the pod baffle that is fixed to the door to create a fascia for the speakers and crossovers. This piece will cover the outer edges of the speakers and crossovers, as well as the entire speaker pod baffle, making them look sleeker by hiding any visible screws. Router 45 degree angles around the interior of the speaker and tweeter holes from the front side, then step the crossover windows up from the back so the crossovers will appear nearly flush. We will add magnets to the back of the dress piece and to the front of speaker pod to hold the cover to the baffle. We will stain and gloss the fascia cover for this application.

pixlr_20180618052919966Using a Kingpin Audio tweeter speed ring and custom LIS Audio templates to add accent holes to the fascia.

Building the Door Panel Pods…

Lets now build some rings from the baffle template and then repeat the process of adding stilts and body filler, but on the door panel instead of the door itself. The ring will be in the shape of the door pod. This part of the pod is an exterior dress piece that will attach to the door panel and fit over the speaker pod mounted to the door. Make a new template that will be used for creating the outer door panel pods by cutting away the center with a jig saw leaving a pod shaped ring. Try to cut the ring to be at least 1 1/2” wide.

20180110_131503.jpgThe base ring template flush routered to create another base peice to be used on the door panel pods.

On this second outer door panel pod we will match its finished material to the interior of the car, using black and red seude. Black for the door pod and red for the accent ring that will hold the lights. The base ring does not need to be routered for shape, it can be built off of from the platform shown in the image below. Once the angle of the pod has been decided and the door panel has been test fit back on the car for clearance (looking at how the panel pod fits over the speaker pod and the closed-door clearance) we will begin to add more stilts and the body filler. Lets start on the accent ring now so that we can perform our body fill process in one easy and fluid step.

pixlr_20180617203646097.jpgThe door panel pod base got glued to the taped door panel with a few stilts.

From our original door pod ring template we will create a ring that will become an accent feature, as well as help hide our LED lights that we plan to add. We will step the circumference of the newly cut template down a ½” all the way around using our router. Measure in 1” in all the way around the ring template and proceed to cut the inner meat out of the shape leaving a ring slightly smaller than the speaker pod baffle. Step the inner ring edge in 3/8” (as deep as the LED strip is wide while still accounting for some seude to fit in as well) preparing a place to mount the LED that will hide the strip.

20180112_133229Our door panel pod accent rings routed and ready for tape.

We must be sure to router all edges of our rings before starting the body fill and shaping process of the door panel pods. This is so we can estimate the proper height of the lip we will build up to the ouster pod edge. Tape the entire outer edge of the ring with the same painters tape we used on the door panels. We’re going to build up a lip around the ring so that the piece falls flush into the door pod. Add body filler up passed the top edge of the taped ring to create a lip or ledge that the ring will fit into. Once the lip has been created sand the body filler down to the tape around the edge of the dress ring and remove the ring from the form.

20180112_134418.jpgNotice the taped accent ring secured to the door panel base ring with a 1/2″ around the edges.
pixlr_20180617204231629.jpgAdding stilts, then layer one of body filler on the door panel pods.

Just as with the speaker pods this process may take a few layers of building up and knocking down. Allow plenty of time to dry between layers and don’t be afraid to add plenty of body filler as we build our base layers. Pay attention to the top edge of the pod where the accent rings meets the body filler, try to make  this line as thin as possible to avoid over sanding the accent ring when trying to remove them from the pods. Too much material at this edge can also cause the lip of the pod to break uncharacteristically so be careful separating the pieces.

The finishing touches…

20180119_104207_20180618034220007All three pieces ready for paint and wrap stacked together off the panel.

Now that the surface of all of the pods and accent pieces are smooth and ready for wrap we will begin painting them and further prepping for finish. We decided just to paint the speaker pods because they wont be visible with the wooden baffle and door panel fascia installed. So, we will only be wrapping the two door panel pods and the trim rings. Once again assess all the gapping between pieces before wrapping to be sure our fabrics will all let them fit snuggly together once applied.

20180126_155006All of our pieces prepped and ready for install or to be wrapped.

There are many different types of adhesives we could use and different ways to apply them. For this process of attaching the suede we will use 2” wood brushes to apply DAP industrial strength contact adhesive, which will be mentioned again later in the write-up. At this point we can cut the holes in the speaker baffle for the crossovers to be mounted and then paint the exposed wood. Feel free to install the speaker components into the pod, wire the components up and mount the speaker pod to the door at this time. Secure any loose wires with the ring zip ties and 1/2″ screws.

20180131_150643The speaker pod with tweeters and crossovers installed. The mids will be installed once the pod is mounted.
pixlr_20180617172621790The speaker pods with the magnets installed and the fascia in place.

As we use our brush to apply the adhesive we must be careful not to add too much to the back of the suede pieces or it may seep through the material. I would recommend laying out a scrap piece of wood to brush off a little of the adhesive before applying it to the suede backing. Add a little painters tape to the wood to recycle the piece for multiple applications. This will prevent the glue from pooling-up or collecting in one area. Apply the contact cement to the pod surface as well, then wait about 10 minutes for the glue to become tacky to the touch but not stick to your finger.

pixlr_20180617210621377.jpgThe door panel pod wrapped in black suede. Notice the gap left between the ring and pod for red suede material.

Lay the suede over the pod attempting to work out any wrinkles or bubbles that may begin to from. Work the material towards the outer edges. Allow plenty of access material to drape over the edges of the panel or ring that is being wrapped, so that we won’t run out of suede trying to bend a corner or lay on a concave surface. This may take some effort so feel free to practice on a scrap piece of wood before wrapping the pods. The suede is not very for giving so we’ll be sure take our time laying it.

pixlr_20180618032316143The ring being wrapped to fully wrapped with LEDs installed.

Mount the outer door panel pod to the door using screws. Add the LED lights and be sure to add a plug on the back of the panel for a quick disconnect when pulling the doors off the car. Then install the door panel back over the finished pod. Add all mounting hardware and clips back into the door panel and then test all the electronics on the door to verify they are in proper working order. The Audio Dynamics speaker specifications will let us know where to set our crossovers at the stereo and at the amplifiers. Turn the system on and tune the amplifiers just under the point of distortion. Sit back and enjoy!

20180207_142531.jpgThe pods finished, installed and all lit up!
pixlr_20180618035236649.jpgThe pods seem to look good with no light or with up close and from a distance. I’m proud of how they turned out!

Door Pod Build Video…

Here is a video of the full door panel build process. We won’t go into great detail in the video but it will show a sped up step-by-step of how these Nissan 350Z door panels came to life! Check out the video for a better idea of the breakdown…

This video shows almost the entire process from front to back of the speaker pod and door panel pods being built.

Thank you for reading my write-up on basic techniques of how to fabricate custom speaker door pods! I hope you took something new away from this read! If you would like to learn more about Mobile Electronics and the skills needed to become a proficient mobile audio tech then check out our Mobile Electronics Classes (M.E.T.) and follow our M.E.T. Blog at http://www.lisaudioblog.com/mobile-electronics-trainings.

Have questions or anything to add? Leave a comment below!

Have fun and be safe, good luck on your project!

Contact LIS Audio…

Phone: (913) 912-6990

E-mail: info@lisaudio.com

Website: http://www.lisaudio.com

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